Developers of disabled third-party Twitter clients ask users to forgo refunds

Developers of disabled third-party Twitter clients ask users to forgo refunds
Mar 2023

Elon Musk's "extremely hardcore" version of Twitter abruptly and unexpectedly cut off API access for popular third-party Twitter clients back in January, citing unnamed "long-standing API rules" that the apps had apparently been breaking. The company later retconned its developer agreement to prohibit "a substitute or similar service or product to the Twitter Applications."

Further Reading

For the former developers of Tweetbot and Twitterific, two of the longest-lived and most popular third-party Twitter clients, this meant losing their biggest products and revenue streams, and potentially refunding subscribers who suddenly couldn't use the apps they were paying for.

Tapbots and The Iconfactory (developers of Tweetbot and Twitterrific, respectively) have released one last update for their Twitter apps, walking users through the process of dealing with their expired subscriptions. If users want a prorated refund (back-dated to January 12, the last day both clients functioned normally), they don't need to take any action; both apps will be giving out prorated refunds to subscribers they don't hear from. But the apps also include a button that allows users to opt out of their refunds, allowing the developers to keep that money to fund future projects.

"The loss of ongoing, recurring revenue from Twitterrific is already going to hurt our business significantly, and any refunds will come directly out of our pockets--not Twitter's and not Apple's," wrote Twitterific's Sean Heber in a blog post shortly after API access was discontinued. "To put it simply, thousands of refunds would be devastating to a small company like ours."

Users who forgo their refunds for Tweetbot or Twitterrific can still contact Apple and request a refund later if they change their minds. If you're a subscriber to Tweetbot or Twitterific and you've already deleted the app, you can re-download it to transfer your subscription or forgo a refund.

Tapbots has already moved on to a new project named Ivory, an iOS and iPadOS client for the decentralized Mastodon social network that looks and works a whole lot like Tweetbot used to (a macOS client is still in development). Tweetbot users can elect to transfer their remaining Tweetbot subscriptions to Ivory instead of getting or forgoing a refund. The Iconfactory has expressed interest in supporting Mastodon and its underlying ActivityPub protocol but as of late January didn't have any specific products in development.

Further Reading

Twitter API access is one of the many topics that the flailing Musk-era version of Twitter has struggled to address. Musk initially announced that anyone who wanted to use the API would need to pay for it, including researchers and automated bot accounts. He later said that a "light, write-only API" would be available "for bots providing good content that is free." That post is dated February 4, and no other official announcements about API access have been made since then.

"The Twitter pay for API access plan seems to have been forgotten about," wrote Tapbots co-founder Paul Haddad on Mastodon. "My guess is they didn't have anyone that could properly implement any paid rate limits on the 1.1 API and just gave up on the entire thing."